An unscientific poll of Athletics Nation visitors from February 1 to February 4 generally approved of the job Billy Beane was doing as general manager of the Oakland Athletics:
The case for Billy Beane (72.9%)
There are several reasons to approve of Beane's performance as general manager.
1. He's taken the A's to the postseason eight times
This reason could also be called, "The playoffs are a crapshoot." Since 1998, Billy Beane's Athletics have gone to the division series seven times, a feat met or exceeded by only five teams, each with far greater payrolls: the Yankees (14), Cardinals (11), Braves (10), Red Sox (9), and Angels (7). His teams have a .539 overall winning percentage despite being cabined to the lower half of payroll during his entire stewardship. There's no magic formula to postseason success; it's Beane's job to get the A's to the postseason as often as possible and he has done that.
2. Calls for Beane's head are shortsighted.
To base a call to fire Beane on what happened in the last two months of the regular season is remarkably shortsighted, and really cannot be pinned on Beane anyway. Injuries piled up among position players, and the team's bullpen went from out of this world excellence to merely pretty good.
Plus, who would replace Beane? The primary candidate to succeed Beane is longtime assistant general manager David Forst, and his longevity can be ascribed to sharing the same organization philosophy as Beane, except Forst played baseball at Harvard.
Even if all of Beane's top assistants go with him, things might not look so great. As AN user TheZomBee wrote, "Honestly, I wish we had a very different type of GM for a couple of seasons, so people would realize how fortunate we are to have Billy Beane as our General Manager. I'm not sure how can anybody disapprove what he's done, this off-season and the last 15."
3. Billy Beane's job is to field a winning team, not market the team.
Responding to the criticism that it's impossible to grow attachments to favorite players if they just get traded away, Billy Beane can't supposed to care about that. His job is to recognize the risk that his players are going to fade due to age or luck or what have you before they actually do to get the most value out of those players as he can. If that means trading away Yoenis Cespedes or five All-Stars, then that's what has to happen.
The case against Billy Beane (16.5%)
Arguments opposing Billy Beane were centered around his team's postseason performance, the roster churn, and just plain being tired of "excuses":
1. He can't get out of the first round
There must be something more than luck to getting out of the first round. The only team with at least five division series appearances and only one win is the Minnesota Twins, who beat the A's in 2002. We may not be able to identify a particular reason why that's the case, but that's the GM's job, and Beane has failed to do it.
2. Beane should have recognized that Yoenis Cespedes makes the A's a winner
Yoenis Cespedes was a major part in the A's successes since 2012. The team went 228-131 with him in the starting lineup and 28-44 without him in the lineup before the trade for Jon Lester. He brought power that his supporters say protected the ones that hit in front of him, and a fielding arm that too many runners ignored to their doom. He inspired his teammates to victory, and his absence wrecked a finely tuned clubhouse chemistry.
3. He's been there a long time, and the excuses of low payroll, small market, and bad stadium are just excuses.
Beane is now about to enter his 17th season as general manager, the longest active tenure of every GM except Brian Sabean of the San Francisco Giants. No championship, not even an AL pennant to show for it. It's just time to try something new, even if it means handing things off to David Forst.
The fence (10.6%)
AN regular Drone laid out a poignant argument on why he voted "unsure":
[I voted unsure] mostly because it depends on what mood I'm in or what mode of fandom I'm in. Beane's job is different from my job. His job is to make his team as competitive as he can within the constraints of his organization-usually budgetary. In this, BB has few peers, and I'm always going to give him credit for being one of the finest GMs I've ever seen.
As a fan, though, my job is more complex. Sure, I want the A's to win. But I also want them to entertain me as well as being a collection of players that I genuinely like. I don't root exclusively for the laundry. That's a rationalization for focusing solely on wins and losses, which is fine for people who are into that kind of identification need. So as far as having a team that I identified with and could enjoy a journey through the season with, the GM was brutal to me this year.
Baseball may be a business. It is a business. But for me, being a fan can never be a business. So occasionally, Beane's interests and mine do not coincide. This has just been one of those years. But I would never accuse him of not being good at his job.
Thank you to everyone who commented on the poll:
|Roll Call Info|
|Commenter list||AlwaysAnA, AsFan88, BWH, Bulgaricus, ChuckBudd, CmdrKhraanik, CocoCrispies, Drone, Fircoal, Georgethev, Jeremy F. Koo, JustANotherJoe, Lovemyoaklanda's, MehranTheGreat, Nico, Nubmonger, One won lost won, Parvenu, Philip Christy, Shed, Tell'imWash, The Tall Tactician, TheZomBee, Tutu-late, asfansince1989, benjamin.feiner.3, bernie_till_i_die, bta47, carp, danmerqury, frakking-anustart, fridaynightfan, guessatomo, iglew, jacoby_shinn, justANotherAsFan, martini_momo, paris7, rhymeswithelephant, robertmelvin, sc00by, sigdor3, supersugarCrisp, toddsodds, tradersam, travdog6, whobob|
Keep sharing your thoughts on Billy Beane here. We'll run another poll at the start of March.